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August 1, 2012

Starry future for Coll

Gazing at the night sky when it is truly dark can be spectacular. The Galloway Forest Park was the first to be designated an official dark sky site. Now the community on the tiny Isle of Coll are hoping to become Scotland’s first Dark Sky Island.  With no street lights and therefore no light pollution, the islanders hope that gaining the official designation will boost tourism.  These are heady times for the island community.  They’ve just opened their new community centre and bunkhouse.



Rural Network, Jamie MacDougall 

The community of the Isle of Coll are celebrating this week after their brand new purpose-built community centre opened its doors to the public.

The new building, called An Cridhe, meaning ‘the heart’ in Gaelic, was officially opened by HRH Princess Anne on Wednesday 11th July during the four-day opening festival.

The population of Coll has experienced an increase in population by over 60 percent in the last 30 years and currently stands at approximately 220. The development of An Cridhe will ensure there are adequate facilities to meet the demands of the local community and help sustain this population growth.

The multi-purpose centre, located in the village of Arinagour, is managed by Development Coll, the island’s own community development organisation, and as well as being used by local people and visitors, it will act as a business centre to provide opportunities for local enterprise. It will also be a place for social gatherings and provide the community with sports facilities, music and exhibition space.

A 14-bed bunk-house has been built as part of the project, providing quality hostel accommodation which will provide an ongoing source of revenue for the community centre. The An Cridhe centre has been built with environmental sustainability as a priority, using renewable energy and energy saving technologies to reduce the carbon footprint.

The purchase of the land and construction of the £2.5 million community centre and bunkhouse was funded by European Regional Development Funding, BIG Lottery, sportscotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Community Energy Scotland, Argyll and Bute Council and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Emma Grant, project manager at Development Coll, said: “After several years of hard work by the community it is hard to believe that the new centre is about to open its doors. It’s been a real team effort by staff, contractors, volunteers and the community in general. We’re absolutely delighted with the finished building and we can’t wait to kick-off the celebrations.”

As well as the official opening on Wednesday, a four-day opening event is to be held for people to celebrate the new facility and find out what’s on offer, with Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain headlining the celebrations on Thursday evening.

Further information and the full programme of events at An Cridhe this week is available at


Moves are well in hand in an attempt to declare the Isle of Coll a ‘Dark Skies’ island.

Dark Sky Scotland – has lots of information about the ethos behind this international movement, a hope that some parts of the world will remain free from light pollution, where one can fully appreciate the true beauty of a night sky.

Coll is already most of the way there, the nearest street light being in Tobermory on the neighbouring island of Mull. Areas for sky watching have already been ear marked and the process of formal recognition is under way. By the time the summer wanes to reveal the amazing night skies that all us Collachs often take for granted, Coll will, hopefully, be a fully fledged ‘Dark Skies island’.